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Rommel has the British in retreat on his way to the Suez Canal. All that stands in his way is Tobruk, held by a vastly out numbered force of Australian troops. Richard Burton leads these troops on daring raids against Rommel, keeping him off balance as they earn the nickname 'The Desert Rats'.Written by
Derek Picken <email@example.com>
A fine film that highlights an almost forgotten campaign in WWII.
The Desert Rats is an unpretentious war film that tells a good story with economy. The heroics come without drum-rolls.
The most fascinating part of this film is to watch both the marvelous Robert Newton and the under-rated James Mason give Richard Burton acting lessons.
Burton tends to chew the scenery when he snarls, "Good-morning," as though he were the youngest in a large family, doing anything for attention.
Newton counters Burton's unnecessary histrionics with a beautifully modulated realization of-himself in disguise as Prof. Bartlett, Burton's old instructor. I think this is the most honest look at the REAL Newton on film. The rueful man who clearly understands his inability to stay sober, but still has enough control to see his own and everyone else's situation clearly. He is the kind, timorous, brilliant failure who, in one burst of glory, up-stages his more successful juniors. Newton delivers a truly magical performance.
James Mason also delivers a balanced and multi-layered Rommel. Of course he practiced playing this brilliant German General in the better-known film, The Desert Fox.
Burton comes across as pure ham in The Desert Rats, but there IS one scene he has where he is honest and effective. He explains to Bartlett that the picture of the young woman in his wallet is his wife. The picture actually IS Burton's wife, pre-Elizabeth Taylor.
Otherwise, although Burton is billed as the star, the film belongs to Newton and Mason. See it for the pleasure of their company.
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